Lombardi: Thanksgiving Day recaps, power ratings and a Week 12 NFL preview


Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday as it combines the best America can offer. Four straight days of overindulgence — overeating, drinking, savoring football of all kinds and placing wagers. At VSIN, we are having our Betsgiving contest to get into the Thanksgiving spirit. Often, the games aren’t great, but does it matter when there is action involved? We crave more football the way we crave more pie as the day becomes night.  Yesterday, all three games were good, and each one helped us learn more about the playoff races.

Buffalo at Detroit


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The Lombardi Line took Buffalo laying the nine points and lost, which started Thanksgiving on the wrong foot. Both the Bills and Josh Allen didn’t look explosive, which we counted on occurring as part of our handicap. Allen was still able to run the ball effectively, leading the team in rushing, but his arm wasn’t consistently strong. The offense never found a rhythm.  The Bills certainly didn’t look like a Super Bowl contender. 

Let’s be honest. For all the love Dan Campbell receives on the television broadcast from his former teammates for being a great coach, his game management cost Detroit a win. Campbell may be a tough guy, but he isn’t a strategist, and he lacks situational awareness. Campbell’s third-and-15 play call from Detroit’s own 3-yard-line resulted in a safety. His game mismanagement at the end of the first half allowed the Bills to steal another three points, ultimately the difference in the game. And his clock management left enough time at the end of the game for the Bills to travel 48 yards in four plays and kick the game-winning field goal. 

If you told me before the game the Lions would force the Bills to punt four times and turn the ball over once, I wouldn’t have believed you. The Lions pressured Allen most of the game, especially when left tackle Dion Dawkins left the game forcing David Quessenberry to play. Allen continued to turn the ball over in the red zone (They are ranked 30th on offensive turnovers.), and with Von Miller potentially lost to a knee injury, the Bills defense, the best in football earlier in the season, now looks average and vulnerable.  They will need to regroup and find their rhythm, or they won’t beat Kansas City again in KC. 

NY Giants at Dallas

This was an easy game to analyze. With all their injuries, the Giants are not a playoff team or a formidable opponent. Even when healthy, the Giants must play perfectly in all three phases to win. Meanwhile, the Boys are back in sync on offense. Since week eight, the Cowboys have gained over 420 yards every game, averaging 36.25 points per game. Since their week four game against the Commanders, they’ve rushed for over 130 yards in each game. When they have a run/pass balance and take the “win the game” pressure off Dak Prescott, they are hard to beat. 

Despite their wonderful start, the Giants are not playing as well as Washington and might not make the playoffs.  In fairness to the Giants, you can only hide an average quarterback for so long.  They’ve done an amazing job keeping Daniel Jones playing within the framework of their offense and avoiding big mistakes. But you can only run so many naked bootlegs before the defense takes that play away. And if the running game isn’t humming, it places more pressure on Jones. They play Washington twice in the next three weeks along with Philadelphia. Then the Giants close the season with games at Minnesota, home versus Indianapolis, and at Philadelphia.  The Philly game won’t mean anything to the Eagles, so count that as the Giants eighth win.  Can they win two out of the remaining five?  Next week versus Washington will essentially be a playoff game, and Washington looks more playoff ready then the Giants. 

New England at Minnesota

You can call it luck, good fortune, or timely play, but the Vikings find ways to win games in the fourth quarter. Last night, they allowed New England to average 7.4 yards per play and score 26 points on 55 plays, yet they still won by seven.  Minnesota is sneaky good in all the areas that matter most towards winning.  They held the Patriots to three of 10 conversions on third down, while they were successful converting eight of their 15 third-down attempts, which allowed them to control the ball for 36:17 minutes of the game.  They stopped the Patriots on all three third-down red zone attempts, including two on goal-to-go. On offense, the Vikings were successful on three of their five third-down attempts including their only third-and goal. Other reasons the Patriots lost: They allowed five first downs on penalties, surrendered a kickoff return for the touchdown and only ran 13 plays in the fourth quarter, resulting in just two first downs. 

Can the Vikings continue to play this way and win? I have been hesitant to believe in their good fortune, especially since Kirk Cousins isn’t playing anywhere near his level of play from a year ago.  Last year, he averaged 7.5 yards per passing attempt. This season, he is down to 6.7.  Last year, he had a 5.9 TD percentage; this year, only 4.1.  This year’s 2.2 interception percentage is far outpacing last year’s 1.2, and yet the Vikings are in first place ready to host a playoff game.  I’m still skeptical. 

As for New England, their season is on the line next week at home versus Buffalo, a team they have not forced to punt in two games. Things don’t look promising for the Pats. They have been too inconsistent, unable to stack good game after good game, and they make too many mistakes at critical times.